I remember when a friend of mine told me she’d rather starve than go alone at a restaurant to grab lunch. I wasn’t surprised – I couldn’t imagine going to the movies by myself. Somehow, hanging out with yourself was more filled with anxiety than learning to walk.
In a way, I felt like I was struggling to take my first steps as an independent adult. No longer in school, no longer in a clique. Just me and my company. Would I like myself?
After years of expecting people to love me, appreciate me, validate me to be happy and failing at that all the time, I figured why wait? Why wait for people to jump-start my life? So, I went at it alone.
I started small, by filling the breaks. Let’s say I was at home, alone after work with a couple of hours to spare or even with the whole evening to myself. Instead of calling someone, anyone, to chat my night away, I’d start meditating. Other times, I’d catch up on reading or watch a re-run of my favorite show. Many times I simply wrote away my thoughts enjoying the look of ink on a blank piece of paper.
From there, I braved the outside world – alone.
- At the gym. A friend pushes your limits at the gym or pulls you into easy gossip. It makes you forget the fact that your muscles ache like hell and you’re all sweaty and out of breath. Alone? I only lasted 35 minutes the first time. I was getting bored, I thought that everyone was giving me a side eye, suddenly my thighs looked too big and I kept getting advice on how to train. I stopped going for a couple of weeks, trying to train at home instead. Eventually, I returned with headphones and plenty of music to shield myself from others.
- Shopping. Truth be told, I secretly loved to go shopping alone. I could check out every earring, put on every hat, grab as many items I want and spend my whole day in the fitting room if I chose too. No one was there to hurry me.
- In the neighborhood. I took my first walk alone, without a destination, when I wanted to clear my mind. The house seemed too small and stifling. Outside, though, I could think, cry and keep on walking until the pain of my feet would replace the pain in my heart. It was liberating. Yet, I was constantly aware of passersby. That is until I understood that I was free to feel however I want, especially in the midst of strangers I’d never get to know
- In a restaurant. The first time I ate alone I was starving. This is how I chose to defend the way I gulped every French fry. “I’m hungry, that’s why I’m eating as if the world ends today! It’s surely not because I feel awkward, nooo. So what if everyone’s staring me like I’m a freak?! I don’t care”. Of course NO ONE was staring. I wasn’t a freak. No one who eats alone is. I got that after a few meals in the city and slowly I went from munching away with my head down to savoring every piece of delicious food or creamy dessert. I started ordering a glass of wine just for me and fancy myself thinking I was a fearless donna.
- At a class. I always feared the unknown, so signing up for a class ALONE, where I know no one and nothing – not what will be required of me or how it will go – is out of my comfort zone. Yet, I did it. Twice. The first time was bitter sweet – all the other girls came with friends, so I swapped ideas with some people, randomly, but nothing outside class. But all my regrets from then turned into to-do lists for the future. So the second time, when I went to a yoga/pilates class, I was ready. I made eye contact, small talk and then the dreaded moment came – I had to open my heart and tell a complete stranger who I am and who I’m not. As much as I hate talking about myself in front of strangers, I surprised myself by suddenly smiling, looking my partner in the eye and letting go – of the good and the bed. You know what? She smiled back, took my words with kindness, embraced who I was.
Bottom line is doing things alone can be a big eye-opener. It can help you see yourself clearly, understand strangers’ opinions do NOT matter and even find support where you least expect it. But most of all, it meant that I could do this! I could survive without someone holding my hand. Yes, it’s awesome when there is someone there (God knows how much T. means to me) but if there’s none, you can still have the best time of your life because you have YOU.